Seneca East armed and dangerous

ATTICA – Mason McWilliams wants to get you out.

He usually does. The left-handed Ohio commit came into this week having allowed one earned run in 56 innings. He’s struck out 110 batters.

And while he usually says all the right things about his performances and how he approaches pitching, the Seneca East starter occasionally allows a little bit of attitude to sneak into his sound bytes.

“For me, it’s getting ahead in the count, getting fastballs in, pounding the zone hard,” McWilliams said when asked about his stuff. “Worst-case scenario, switch to my slider or my curve, keep batters off balance.

“And, hopefully, make them look stupid.”

Seneca East’s other starting pitchers, Ethan Caudill and Ben Cramer, didn’t outwardly share those sentiments.

But they do share his dominant numbers.

As a pitching staff, Seneca East – the No. 1 team in Division IV – leads the Midland Athletic League with a remarkable 0.40 earned run average. The next closest team, Calvert, has an ERA of about a run and a half higher.

The individual numbers are staggering. McWilliams is 10-0 this season with a 0.12 earned run average. Caudill’s has also only allowed an earned run this season. His ERA is only slightly higher than McWilliams because he has pitched fewer innings. He sports a microscopic 0.16 mark.

Cramer has only allowed two earned runs in 31 innings.

It’s been fun. Not just for the pitchers, but for the player who acts as their receiver.

“More than anything, they’ve been teaching me this whole season,” SE catcher Nate Snavely said. “I come in here as a sophomore, and I’ve had plenty of experience catching last year with JV, but nothing with these guys. I mean, after a week (into) the season, we were getting on the same page.”

As the catcher, Snavely knows – perhaps better than anyone – what each hurler brings to each game. In McWilliams, Seneca East has a guy who can throw a fastball in the upper 80s. But that’s just part of why he’s successful.

“Mason really has got a lot of speed,” Snavely said. “He’s got that going for him, but he’s also got that offspeed stuff to throw (hitters) off balance.”

Seneca East coach Frank Lamoreaux said he knew there was something different about McWilliams before he threw his first pitch.

“When that kid was coming to my football camps and baseball camps when he was in third and fourth grade, I said ‘Mason McWilliams; there’s a name that rolls off the tongue. You maybe want to remember that name.’

“It’s been true,” Lamoreaux said, “because you could see back then that he was a really good athlete. You could see back then that he had a lot of drive and a lot of determination, and he just carried it over.”

McWilliams gets plenty of attention, but Caudill – who Lamoreaux believes also can play baseball at the collegiate level – has also dominated hitters. While not a flamethrower, he was neck-and-neck with McWilliams most of the season for the MAL strikeout lead. He has fanned 94 batters this season, walked 15, and surrendered 16 hits. He’s 7-0.

Snavely said there is a psychological aspect to Caudill’s success.

“Ethan is just very good at getting in batters’ heads,” the catcher said. “Really getting to them so they don’t know what is coming. They can’t expect anything with him.”

Caudill said what expects from himself goes beyond what he’s done on the mound, and beyond the numbers he has put up.

“My individual goal for the year is just trying to push the teammates – Mason and Ben – to be as good a pitchers as they can be,” he said. “I’m not really to worried about stats, as long as at the end of the game, if I can put our team in the position to win, I think I’ve done my job.”

Lamoreaux praised Caudill’s athleticism.

“He’s a three-sport athlete; I honestly think baseball might be his best sport,” Lamoreaux said. “Ethan can play any spot. He has for us, he’s played every spot except catching. So he’s an all-round, just about as close to a five-tool baseball player as you can get.”

Cramer hasn’t pitched as much as the other two Tiger starters, but he’s a guy who likely would be another team’s No. 1. He has a 4-1 record, having struck out 26. His earned run average is 0.45.

It was Cramer who secured the outright MAL title Monday with a five-inning shutout against St. Wendelin.

“Look at his size; he’s big, he’s strong. He works hard at it; he watches, he listens, he learns, he’s like a sponge,” Lamoreaux said. “He likes what he’s doing, and he picks up every little thing you can tell him. He likes the game, there’s no doubt. He’s a good player.”

“Ben, he’s just really good at putting the ball in his spots,” Snavely said, “and we’re there to back him up.”

Cramer said his job has been to help fill out the staff.

“My role all year has just been pound the strike zone, hit spots and mix in some curveballs,” Cramer said. “Just fill in when these guys couldn’t pitch and pitched the night before and their arms weren’t ready to come back out.”

But for all the individual accolades, the trio said when it comes down to it, it’s not important.

What’s important is making a deep postseason run.

But the Tigers aren’t getting ahead of themselves. They have a 21-1 record, which means nothing once the first postseason pitch is thrown.

“We can’t play in the district championship tomorrow, we have to take a couple of games to get there,” Caudill said. “If we don’t win (the postseason opener), we’re not gonna get to districts. Being No. 1 in the state right now absolutely means nothing.”

The first postseason game – a home contest with South Central – was scheduled for Tuesday, but was rained out. It was rescheduled for 5 p.m. today.

Lamoreaux said his team wants to make a mark.

“They’re focused. They want something that’s a little bit more than individualistic,” Lamoreaux said. “They want something that can be recognized as a team accomplishment. Right now, with an MAL championship, they’re on the right track.”